By Brian Stahlkopf
Blue Stars alum
My name is Brian Stahlkopf and I am an alumnus of the Blue Stars who marched from 1979-1981. After being away from drum corps for several years and hearing the corps was in need of assistance, I agreed to spend a portion of my summer vacation going on the road with the corps from July 3-13. My volunteer duties primarily consisted of assisting the head cook provide the corps with three meals and a snack a day. The experience was challenging, insightful, rewarding and brought back many memories of what it means to be a Blue Star. It also reaffirmed to me how there is no other activity like drum corps to help teach young adults the life long skills and values of self-responsibility, commitment, team work, dedication, time management, communication, critical thinking, listening, and what it takes to be a gracious humble champion. The experience also showed me a side of drum corps that, as a marching member, I was not fully aware of. It showed me that the show on the field is really just the tip of the iceberg towards having a successful corps. That the success of the show on the field is directly related to the show that takes place off the field by the unrelenting commitment of parents, staff, alumni and numerous outside sponsors who step up to volunteer in their own unique way.   As one staff member who came up to thank me late one night while I was preparing wash tubs said, "The Blue Stars would not exist without the help of volunteers." I have heard this before and really didn't think that much of it. But, this time having been so intimately involved with the everyday work of the corps, I understood how true and real this statement was. During my time with the corps I had many memorable experiences: ·        The look on the faces of the kids when we were able to provide them with donated homemade banana bread or cookies
·        The fun had by all at the picnic hosted the Anthony's following the Stillwater show and the Severances on the Black River the next day
·        Seeing the food truck pull into the Lodi high school parking lot
·        Being able serve eggs and pancakes due to the driving and mechanical ability of Chris the food truck driver
·        Teaching Danny how to be the water boy
·        Seeing the children of alumni I marched with marching with the corps
·        Making new friends
·        Riding in the truck with Arlie
·        The donated meal provided by the Racine Scouts
·        Working with and learning a few cooking tricks from Kathy the head cook
·        Providing hugs of support
·        Assisting injured kids and offering words of encouragement
·        Reminiscing with Dawn, Steve and other vets I used to march with about old times
·        Talking with the kids and staff about how the corps used to be and passing down traditions However, the highlight of my experience took place during and following the finals performance at the De Kalb show. As I was helping wheel the podium on to the field, I ran into Don Hill and Moe Latour. They had made a point to come and watch the Blue Stars show with the staff. For those who are not aware, Don used to be the head horn instructor and Moe the tour director of the Blue Stars for numerous years in the '70s and early '80s. Don used to be the head horn judge for DCI and Moe is a DCI hall of fame member. They recently have been working for the Cadets, who were to perform at the show later in the evening. I had a nice conversation discussing old times and was encouraged by the positive comments they made following the show. Their willingness to make a point to watch the corps showed me how deep and meaningful the Blue Stars were to them -- that at some level they were still Blue Stars at heart. It also reminded me of just how influential the Blue Stars have been in shaping the drum corps activity. The other most memorable experience came for me following the DeKalb finals performance when the kids cheered and the corps director gave a speech in response to the corps' performance. There was not a dry eye in the group, and for the first time I felt as though the corps had come together as a collective group. I even found myself getting choked up with tears swelling in my eyes. As I walked back to the stadium following the speech, I searched for why I was so moved. Was it that my tour with the corps was coming to an end? Was it that I had worked hard and was tired? Was it my ghosts of drum corps past? Was it the site of seeing the staff and kids being proud of their show? Was it just seeing others cry? What was it? How come I was being so emotional? Then, as I was walking back to the busses to serve the after show snack, it started to come to me. I began to become aware that it was all of the above along with the realization that I, for the past 10 days, was a Blue Star who had contributed to the success of the corps. I along with the kids, bus drivers, truck drivers, cooks, volunteers, administrative and instructional staff never gave up even when it would have been easy to do so. We had all succeeded in getting the corps fed, to and from the show, instructed, and cared for so that the kids' show could shine like a star. For that moment we were all Blue Stars whose collective work had paid off for the success of the corps. For that moment I had once again felt the power, emotion and meaning of "Finis Coronat Opus!" Good luck Blue Stars as you continue your championship tour! Brian